Former Sacramento Officer Prepares Future Officers To Avoid A Culture Shock
Walter Blohm is employed with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is a former sworn member of a local law enforcement agency. He received his Criminal Justice degree from Chapman University.
What was the biggest hurdle you experienced straight out of the academy?
“I graduated at 20 and was hired at 21, so one of the biggest obstacles for me might have been a lack of life experience. I was raised in a sheltered environment, so I had never been around drugs, alcohol, dealt with persons with mental illness or experienced a true homeless environment. My first day assigned to the jail was a complete culture shock.”
Is this common for a lot of new hires? How can they prepare themselves?
“Many new hires (in their early 20s) could face a similar challenge, whether it’s a lack of street knowledge or a lack of life experience. You are entrusted with the public’s trust and have to be able to back up every decision that you make, as it applies to Department policy. If you are green in life, it might be more difficult to determine the difference between doing things right and doing the right thing. Doing things right is not always the right thing to do.
“One of the best ways to prepare yourself is to take your education and apply it to real life. Know what drugs are – don’t do them – but know what they are, their effects and their real life consequences. Go on as many ride alongs as you can and even volunteer with your local law enforcement agency. Learn how to defend and adequately protect yourself. Establish your ethics and match them to your department’s policy. Through ethical decision-making, you not only alleviate the risk of bringing discredit to yourself and your department, you also become a role model for others. Finally, as a law enforcement professional, you wear many hats. Not only are you an enforcer of the law, but you are also a partner, a counselor for at-risk youth, an advocate for those who don’t have their own voice, a role model/mentor, a teacher, a spouse, a parent, an ambassador and, above all, you are human, not a machine. Many cops forget that last point. One size does not always fit all and you, as a law enforcement professional, have to adapt to your environment.”
Besides the academy, how does education play a role in criminology?
“Officers tend to have a 20 to 30-year career because their departments want them to be in the best shape mentally and physically as possible while in uniform. A great next step for a retiring officer is a law degree and a career as a criminal defense attorney. Working on the sworn side of the justice system, you see things that the defense side doesn’t. Throughout life, you learn that there are two sides to every story, and your experience as a sworn officer helps you to be the best person to tell both sides.”
Megan Bowyer is a freelance writer in search of the best food and drinks that Sacramento has to offer. You can find her at any number of dive bars or trendy restaurants; just look for the short blonde feeding the jukebox. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.